Petfood Industry - December 2013 - 6

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Something to Chew On

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Debbie Phillips-Donaldson

Petfood safety purrs
and growls for 2013
THE RECENT RELEASE of the proposed
feed/petfood preventive control rule
under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) caps a year of news,
progress, regress and concerns about
petfood safety in the US.
P URRS TO PETFOOD companies and executives who act on
the belief that petfood safety is
not proprietary or a competitive advantage. The philosophy is that sharing
Raves and rebukes ideas, programs and best practices is
for people and crucial to ensuring the safety of all
petfood products, building cooperation
organizations with regulators such as the US Food
involved in US petfood and Drug Administration (FDA) and
gaining consumer trust.
safety this year.
While I have heard this sentiment often since FSMA was passed in
January 2011, the fact that executives
from companies such as Del Monte, Diamond Pet
Foods, C.J. Foods, Mars and P&G Pet Care have
openly discussed their petfood safety programs at
industry conferences this year tells me that at least
for them, it's more than just lip service.
PURRS TO PETFOOD companies that include
finished products in their Salmonella testing
programs. There's a perception among
consumers and even veterinarians that most
petfood companies don't test their finished products before distributing them. Lorie Huston, DVM,
made that assertion on PetMD.com earlier this year
without citing any studies or data. A PetMD.com
survey of consumers apparently worded a question
to imply that it's "common industry practice" to
ship products before test results are final-and of
course, 98% of respondents were against that.
Actually, many petfood companies do finished
product testing and hold the related lots in inven-

tory until test results come back, at considerable
expense. At a conference this fall, several executives
said this practice had become their companies'
largest petfood safety related expense-even for
those that have invested heavily in fortifying their
safety systems. What's more, these companies
have been following this practice without knowing
whether it would be mandated under FSMA;
according to the new proposed rule, it will not be.
GROWLS TO MEDIA reports that
perpetuate myths about petfood safety
(I'm talking to you, PetMD.com) or are
so simplistic and lacking in context that they
only ratchet up anxiety and confusion among
consumers. When FDA issued an update in
late October on the investigation into illnesses
related to jerky pet treats, mainstream and social
media seized on the numbers: more than 3,000
complaints, over 3,600 dogs affected (plus 10 cats)
and more than 580 deaths. Those are cause for
concern, but FDA has been tracking complaints
since 2007. Its update said the rate of complaints
"dropped sharply after several well-known brands
were removed from the market in January 2013."
Yet the news reports made it seem as though all
the illnesses-even the recalls-were recent.
When FDA released the preventive control rule
just three days after the jerky treat update (interesting timing!), some media conflated the two, as if
FDA had issued the new regulations in response.
THE LOUDEST GROWL goes to FDA
itself, which issued the preventive control
rule nearly three years after FSMA was
passed, and only after a federal court ordered all
remaining FSMA rules to be out by November 30.
FDA had to comply but is allowing only 120 days
for comments-until February 26, 2014. Three
months after a wait of three years doesn't seem
very fair, does it?
■

Debbie Phillips-Donaldson is editor-in-chief of Petfood Industry magazine. Email her at dphillips@wattnet.net.
December 2013

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Petfood Industry - December 2013 - Contents
Petfood Industry - December 2013 - 2
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